We had another leisurely departure, it was nice out and and we actually tested out Bob’s porpoise-cam, putting the go pro on the boat hook and dropping it to water level at the bow. It was so funny, as Telita was watching us and wondering what we were doing to the poor porpoises.
It started to get very gloomy as we crossed the Valdez VTS area. We could see Deception and Patos on AIS, but then they disappeared. Turns out they were headed up to the Columbia Glacier despite ice and rain with low visibility.
Ok. So, the Columbia Glacier is to be the highlight of today’s passage. It is known as one of the fastest moving glaciers in the world and has been retreating since the 80’s. Named after Columbia University by the Harriman Alaska Expedition in 1899, it is one of many glaciers in Prince William sound named after colleges. It’s a big one.
You can see the glacier from afar, but when it first comes into sight you still have a long journey to go before you near the face. The ice field approaching the glacier extended into our path, but the ice was open enough for us to pick our way with care.
It is never a straight path to the glacier front. You move slow and try to pick a path where the ice seems small and the space between the bits is a least a boat width apart. It is not unusual to have to stop to a full stop, spin the boat in a new direction before continuing on.
Patos had turned back (not wanting to ding the boat’s gel coat or props), but was a few miles ahead and encouraged us to keep coming. So we did.
The closer we approached, the colder it became. The wind was blowing off the glacier, adding to the chill. By the time we arrived near the face, I had donned my fleece, jacket, hat and fleece gloves. For me, the least enjoyable part of cruising to a glacier is that the helmsman must pay attention at all times. You cannot take your eye off the ice. So no pictures enroute (though Karen took several) and even when you look away to admire a berg passing by, that’s always when you hear the thunk of ice hitting the hull.
You cannot avoid hitting ice. But you try to limit it to the small bits and on your own terms.
It took forever to get near the face (2 hours, actually), but eventually we stopped and all posed for pictures in front of Columbia. In fact, the difference between the location of the face as it was depicted on the most current charts and the actual face was dramatic. Our charts showed we had “traveled” over a mile out of the water and on the glacier!
With the photos “in the can”, including an otter giving Karen the stink eye as we went past, we reversed our route and began the equally long journey out of the ice field. One thing you count on is that the route you come in on will not be the route you use to exit. The ice is consistently shifting and moving. Opening and closing constantly.
We were a bit tired on the way to Emerald Cove, our anchorage for the night, and we asked Deception if we could raft alongside as we were too lazy to anchor and there was a potluck tonight aboard Deception anyway. Telita made a similar request, so we were snug in a 3 boat raft, with Patos a short distance away. The rain became more persistent and we were glad to be enjoying the potluck on Deception to celebrate our first glacier face of the trip.